E-LEARNING STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZATION
The late nineties was an exciting term in terms of emerging IT technologies spreading its tentacles across the globe and this was the time when e-learning began to bloom and perception of its value began to grew. Many organizations in the pre dot net boom lay their hand at some stage in adopting e-learning programmes for their employees. The driving force for adoption of e-learning was the novelty and fascination due to ease of deployment across multi location offices, flexibility it offered to employees learning at their own pace without disrupting work schedules and the cost of such programmes being fractional compared to conventional training programmes. The dotcom burst led to managements going back to basics of doing business and e-learning also suffered as a consequence. However the benefits of e-learning could not be wished away and organizations again have begun to adopt e-learning in a big way. The outcomes of e-learning has however been mixed with some organizations being very happy with their experience while others terming the e-learning methods being not effective and unable to achieve the objectives of the training.Our discussions with training mangers of clients in the GCC and India throw insights on their experiences with e-learning within their organization, its success and challenges.
What triggers organizations to adopt online learning programmes in the first place?
Organizations look to e-learning programmes to make their employees work competitively and to demonstrate competency in new areas. The initiative to start e-learning programmes within organization is often triggered by ease of availability of content, the ease of deployment and low cost of such programmes compared to conventional learning programmes. The preferences of decision makers to e-learning methods and average employee profile also play a significant role in adoption of such programmes.
What can make e-learning successful in Corporates?
Most of the corporate managers we talked on successful adoption of e-learning made two important suggestions. First, e-learning content should be dynamic rather than static, serving the new requirements of organizations and employees. Secondly the e-learning content should not be similar to traditional contents that are important for school or university education but should be responsive to demands for new skills, competencies, or performance.
Are learning outcomes from e-learning comparable to class room programmes?
At a higher level it is very obvious that the class room programmes are more effective than e-learning programmes. However the class room programmes by their very nature are tougher to deploy in corporates being time consuming, expensive and arranging logistics in case of multi location offices can be nearly impossible. Before the advent of e-learning many corporates more often could not deploy training programmes for the reasons stated above. The e-learning programmes to a great extent have helped corporates to bridge the gap in terms of quicker deployment of learning programmes for their employees.
There is mixed opinion on success of e-learning programmes compared to traditional class room training programmes amongst corporate managers. The e-learning programmes are very positively viewed for induction programmes, work related training and for general awareness about organizational processes. The e-learning programmes are also felt as most effective in subject areas wherein the participant had some prior knowledge and e-learning helps to reinforce their knowledge. Also employees who are always on the move, such as those from sales function preferred online learning compared to others. The e-learning programmes are also welcomed by new generation employees below thirty whereas older generation employees prefer traditional class room programmes.
How to measure the effectiveness of e-learning programmes?
In the class room programmes by the very nature sessions being interactive, measuring the pace and progress of the learner vis-à-vis other participants and effectiveness of learning can be easily gauged through various techniques. Using the same measures
for e-learning programmes may not be possible or practicable. To measure effectiveness of e-learning organizations needs to have ‘performance measures’ in place and not ‘activity measures’. Activity measures tell an organization how much of training has been completed whereas performance measures would tell the management how well the training has been and its effectiveness.
A few of the performance measures that can be used are:
• Courseware quality
• Quality of online delivery
• Effectiveness of on-the-job support tools
• Effectiveness of learning (knowledge gain)
• Criticality of training to the job
• Estimated change in business performance isolated to training
• Training’s value as an investment in time and money
• Return on training investment
How can effectiveness of e-learning be ensured by corporates?
It is important that e-learning programmes have in built measures designed in the form of tutorials and tests to measure the pace and grasp of the learner to the e-learning module and also help the management to take corrective action where required. Periodic audit of the programme and effectiveness of its deployment can also help in measuring the effectiveness of e-learning.
What are the employee’s perceptions of their online learning experiences?
In majority of organizations we came across employees being happy with e-learning in areas that are directly related to their work. However employees resented the attitude of management to make every training programme into e-learning mode.
To conclude, the e-learning programmes on the whole are beneficial and are here to stay and make greater inroads into corporate training landscape. The e-learning provides opportunity for corporates to train employees who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to train because of time, space and cost constraints. Before adopting online learning methods it is important for organization to assess whether the online learning fits with the organizational strategy for employee training.Training managers together with stake holders need to clearly articulate key e-learning programme goals, define outcomes that align with them, and then identify specific outcome measures that can be used to track the e-learning’s progress in meeting the goals. Presently, however, outcome measures for evaluating online learning programmes are not consistently defined, which makes it difficult for stakeholders to gauge a programme’s success, compare it to other programs, or set improvement goals that are based on the experience of other programmes.